Meet the Team

Lauren Czajka
Executive Director

Lauren joined the YouthRoots crew in 2013. Her background is in experiential education and she holds an MA in Human Rights from the University of Denver. Her favorite activity is doing anything outside with her husband and toddler. She loves working with inspiring youth who make the world a better place.

Lacey Books

Lacey’s long-standing passion with youth philanthropy began in high school in Sioux Falls, SD. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a BA in Neuroscience and went on to earn her teaching certificate. In 2010, Lacey decided it was time to follow her true passion, inspiring youth to act on their big ideas. Lacey enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband. She also enjoys sailing, skiing, and hiking.

Erin Button
Program Manager

Erin joined the YouthRoots team in October 2018 after moving to Colorado from Chicago. She has a Masters of Nonprofit Management from DePaul University and almost 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. During her free time, Erin enjoys reading, baking, and hiking with her husband and two fur-babies.

Alyssa Hornyak
Program & Admin Coordinator

Originally from Michigan, Alyssa’s love of the mountains brought her to Denver to pursue her Master of Social Work at DU. She completed her practicum with YouthRoots and transitioned to full-time in August 2019. She brings experience and a passion for youth empowerment to YouthRoots. Outside of the office, Alyssa loves hiking, traveling, and exploring Denver.

Alyssa Chavez
Admin Assistant

Alyssa Chavez is a part-time administrative assistant for YouthRoots while earning her bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Relations at the University of Colorado Denver. A YouthRoots alum, Alyssa has always had a passion for youth empowerment. At home, she enjoys spending time with her friends and her dog. Alyssa also has a love for traveling, reading, and movies. 

Emily Dandaro
MSW Intern

Emily is our intern and second-year graduate Social Work student at the University of Denver. She has also earned a BA in Psychology and Sociology from Indiana University and is passionate about social justice. During her free time, Emily enjoys listening to podcasts, hiking, and exploring new places in Colorado.

Javon Brame
Facilitator - Central Denver YouthBoard

Javon was born and raised in Colorado and grew up in Northeast Denver (Park Hill).  He is ardent about advocating on behalf of others and being a conduit for the voices of constituencies, as well as seeking to disrupt traditional notions of philanthropy by giving his time, talent, treasure and testimony. He is the past board chair and grant chairman for Denver African American Philanthropists and served on the non-profit internship committee at the Denver Foundation. Most recently, Javon was appointed to serve as a founding advisory committee member for the Black Resilience in Colorado Fund (BRiC) at the Denver Foundation.

Zach Booz
Facilitator - South Denver YouthBoard

Like Chauncy Billups and Chipotle, Zach was born in Denver and has been proud to call Colorado home for most of his life. Zach has spent the bulk of his professional career working in youth development, education and facilitation. He’s worked with young people all over the world in and out of the classroom. He’s also heavily involved with The Chinook Fund, a local grassroots social justice fund. Outside of work, Zach enjoys reading or sleeping under a tree, snuggling his dog, watching TV, dancing in his kitchen, singing in his shower, cooking with his partner, backpacking with friends and/or soaking his body in hot springs.

Garcelle Franklin
Facilitator - Aurora YouthBoard

As a child in South Carolina, Garcelle noticed the effect that teachers of color had in the classroom and was encouraged to pursue her passion of working with children. She obtained her BA in History with a minor in African American Studies and Social Sciences from Winthrop University. In college, she worked with Winthrop’s NAACP and founded an organization to provide free childcare in underserved communities. In Denver, she has worked with AmeriCorps, the Colorado State Senate, and as a Social Emotional Learning teacher. She is currently working towards her graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Denver.

Corey Mastroianni
Facilitator - Douglas County YouthBoard

Corey works as a school social worker at Morgridge Academy, a K-8 school for kids with chronic illnesses on the National Jewish Health hospital campus. She grew up in Colorado Springs, CO and stayed close to home for school white getting her Bachelor’s degree at CU Boulder and Master’s at University of Denver. She's passionate about supporting communities through schools and empowering youth for positive change. 

Aaron Earley
Facilitator - North Denver YouthBoard

Aaron earned his Masters of Social Work from the University of Denver while completing his practicum with YouthRoots in 2014. He is now a Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and serves as the North YouthBoard Facilitator.

Amy Navvab
Facilitator - Northwest Denver YouthBoard

Amy has been involved in youth leadership and facilitation work since she was a high school student. She has a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan and over five years of experience as a restorative justice practitioner. She currently is a School Social Worker in Jefferson County Public Schools. 

Tierney Lain
Facilitator - Boulder 15 Forever YouthBoard

Tierney is the 15 Forever Facilitator and teaches middle school in Brighton, CO. She has a Master’s in Agriculture Education and has spent her career empowering people to discover opportunities to become more innovative, informed, and interesting.

Ann Kolbrek
Facilitator - Sioux Falls Youth Advisory Council

Ann is the facilitator for the Youth Advisory Council of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation which uses the YouthRoots program to empower youth to make a difference! She was in YAC with our founder when the idea of YouthRoots was planted.

Mack Neal
In-School Facilitator (Teacher at PREP Academy)

In addition to teaching at PREP Academy, Mack coaches football and basketball in the Denver area. Mack’s philosophy is to be a servant-leader of his players and students, influenced by his grandmother who taught and showed him what it means to do the right thing.

Jeremy Katz
YouthCharge Guide - Immigrants/Refugees Board

Jeremy’s professional background is in non-profit social enterprise and youth leadership development. He moved to Colorado from San Diego to enjoy outdoor adventures in the Rocky Mountains. He currently serves as the facilitator of the South Denver YouthBoard.

Maria Alsubhi
YouthCharge Guide - Race/Equity Group A

Maria is a junior at CU Boulder studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with minors in Sociology and Leadership and a Certificate in Public Health. She first learned about her passion for nonprofit work when she joined YouthRoots in 2017 as a senior in high school; the experience was so amazing that it changed the trajectory of her career choices from business to nonprofit. She's worked with YouthRoots as an intern in the past and is currently serving on the YouthCharge Race/Equity A Board.

Alexandria Timoll
Curriculum Specialist

Alexandria's journey in the classroom started five years ago after graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in Childhood Education and Psychology. She continued her education at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and earned her MA in teaching with a concentration on urban education. Her passion for urban education drives the work she does in the classroom, writing curriculum, and mentoring preservice teachers.

Karen Yi
Communications Coordinator

Karen Yi is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles and participated on the Douglas County Youth Board during high school. She started web design as a college freshman as a way to combine her interests in art and computer science. In the past, she has designed T-shirts, posters, banners, flyers, and murals for various school organizations. She hopes to open her own online store one day.

Board of Directors

Katie Payer

Katie owns Katie Payer Consulting, which provides clients with focused and high-quality support in creating engaging, thoughtful, and impactful programs to fill the void in events and company content. Previously, Katie was the VP of Communications at Young Americans Center for Financial Education. Katie graduated from Santa Clara University with degrees in marketing and communication. She resides in Denver with her husband, daughter, and son.

Katie Peterson
Vice Chair

Katie Peterson is a Senior Principal in Accenture’s Communications and High-tech Strategy practice. Her experience includes consulting to software and telecommunications companies where she has helped clients in the areas of growth strategy, go-to-market strategy and merger integration.

Adam Sands

Adam Sands is an Executive Vice President for FirstBank, specializing in real estate lending. He currently serves on the Denver Civic Ventures Board for the Downtown Denver Partnership and is an active member of multiple committees. Adam is also a Board Member of the KATA Foundation. Adam received his degree in Business from the University of Northern Colorado and a Graduate Banking degree from the Pacific Coast Banking School in Seattle, WA.

Lacey Books

Lacey’s long-standing passion with youth philanthropy began in high school in Sioux Falls, SD. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a BA in Neuroscience and went on to earn her teaching certificate. In 2010, Lacey decided it was time to follow her true passion, inspiring youth to act on their big ideas. Lacey enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, as well as sailing, skiing, and hiking.

Varunavi (Vv) Battula
Board Member

Vv is a senior at Cherokee Trail High School currently residing as her school’s NHS Vice President of Community Service. She strives to connect her community however she can as she has done as a freshman mentor and as a Children’s Hospital volunteer. Her favorite hobby is creating entertaining art, helping her achieve her goal of bringing laughter to those around her and building a positive environment.

Brian Gonzales
Board Member

Brian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addiction Counselor dedicated to the growth and development of helping professionals, inclusive learning and community partnerships, and best practices for client and worker success. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at the Graduate School of Social Work, and sits on various boards and committees at the school.

Kevin Graff
Board Member

Kevin is a Partner and CFO of Oakwood Real Estate Partners, LLC, a Denver-based real estate investment company. His career in real estate and finance began in New York after getting his BS in Business from CU Boulder. He also has an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management. Kevin now lives in Stapleton with his wife, Brooke, and their three children.

Miguel In Suk Lovato
Board Member

Miguel has a bachelor’s in Psychology and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado-Denver. He has worked directly with low-income and at-risk youth in various capacities. Miguel is currently a Senior Program Officer with the Daniels Fund, one of the largest private foundations in the Rocky Mountain region. At home, he enjoys watching Star Wars movies with his daughter.

Andrea Leyva
Board Member

My name is Andrea Leyva and I will be a senior at Global Leadership Academy this fall. Where I have grown up there has been many obstacles that have made it harder for us to reach our goals. I am committed to work and serve for my community and uplift my fellow classmates to believe in themselves.

K.C. Matthews
Board Member

K.C. holds a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and is a registered Professional Engineer. He is presently the Traffic Standards and Specifications Manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation. K.C. is very active in the Denver Metro Area and has received numerous community service awards for his work. He and his wife of 25+ years, Mary, have three children (one a YouthRoots alumnae!) and one granddaughter.

Lisa Rucker
Board Member

Lisa Rucker joined the Gates Family Foundation in April of 2014. She is the primary Foundation staff for the capital grants program, and oversees the Foundation's grant management system. Lisa is a graduate of Towson University in Maryland. In her free time, Lisa enjoys playing outside with her family and perfecting her Pho recipe.

Steven Szymanski
Board Member

Steven grew up in Winnetka, Illinois and attended the University of Denver for business. After serving in Vietnam, he completed a 40 year career as a Commercial Real Estate Developer. Steven is married and has a daughter who is currently a CSU student.

YouthRootsMeet the Team